Carpe Diem

Higher Education Bubble: A Simple Case of Inflation

Glenn Reynolds writing about the higher education bubble in Sunday’s Washington Examiner:
This is a simple case of inflation: When you artificially pump up the supply of something (whether it’s currency or diplomas), the value drops. The reason why a bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that the government decided that as many people as possible should have bachelor’s degrees. 

There’s something of a pattern here. The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle class people.
But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them. One might as well try to promote basketball skills by distributing expensive sneakers.

Professional basketball players have expensive sneakers, but — TV commercials notwithstanding — it’s not the shoes that make them good at dunking.  If the government really wants to encourage people to achieve, and maintain, middle-class status, it should be encouraging things like self-discipline and the ability to defer gratification. But that’s not how politics works.”
HT: Steve Bartin at Newsalert

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